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Oklahoma State University Diversity Coordinator Lawrence Ware Writes Op-Ed In ‘New York Times’ on Why He Is Leaving the Southern Baptist Convention

Southern Baptists voting to formally condemn the political movement known as the “alt-right,” at their national meeting in Phoenix in June.
Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

The first time I was called a nigger to my face was by a fellow camper at a Southern Baptist Convention retreat near Oklahoma City. I was 13, and it was 1995. Devastated, I complained to a counselor who suggested I pray for the ability to turn the other cheek. Since then, I have done just that and more: I’ve been an ordained minister in the convention for almost a decade.

But I’ve had enough. Today I am officially renouncing my ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant body, with about 15 million members, and the world’s largest Baptist denomination.

My reasoning is simple: As a black scholar of race and a minister who is committed to social justice, I can no longer be part of an organization that is complicit in the disturbing rise of the so-called alt-right, whose members support the abhorrent policies of Donald Trump and whose troubling racial history and current actions reveal a deep commitment to white supremacy.

This decision was not easy. I have fond memories of attending church picnics with my mother. I met my childhood best friend in church. My family has always belonged to churches, and it still does.

An incident last month has compelled me not only to leave, but also to explain why.

During the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, Dwight McKissic, a prominent black pastor in Arlington, Tex., introduced a resolution that denounced white supremacy and the “retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases and racial bigotries of the so-called alt-right.” The resolution should have been immediately adopted. It was not.

A contingent of predominantly white, old-guard members refused to take the resolution seriously, even while many black and progressive clergy members advocated its adoption. It was not until chaos ensued that a reworded resolution vowing to “decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” was adopted.

What’s more, while they hesitated to adopt a resolution that condemned white supremacy, they did not hesitate to throw out activists who tried to raise awareness about the ways in which the convention fails its L.G.B.T.Q. members.

For me, the damage had been done. I wasn’t at the meeting, but after I heard about what happened, it became clear to me that it was time to go. I don’t know why I stayed so long.

Lawrence Ware

This is just the most recent example of the kind of retrograde thinking on race by convention members. In April, five white professors at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth dressed in a way that mimicked gangsta rappers. They posed for a picture wearing hoodies, hats to the side and flashy necklaces. One of the professors was holding what looked like a gun.

The university president apologized and lamented the “moment of bad judgment,” but nothing meaningful was done. To me, their performance constituted more than bad judgment. Mockingly stereotyping African-Americans revealed the moral bankruptcy of their souls. These men are responsible for preparing ministers for the work of the church, after all.

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SOURCE: The New York Times
Lawrence Ware (@Law_writes) is a pastor at Prospect Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. He is also a co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at Oklahoma State University and the diversity coordinator for its philosophy department.